The City of the Deported

Gabriel Grüner Prize

Karaganda, in Kazakhstan is a half a million people strong town home to a diverse population of Koreans, Russians, Mongolians, Chechens and Finns amongst others.


But behind the melting pot of ethnicities — expressed at first sight through the variety of cultural emblems, cuisines and places of worship — Karaganda hides a dark past.


Until the late 50s, this site was home to Karlag, one of the largest Gulags in the Soviet regime, where thousands of dissidents were sent to, held, tortured and many times killed. People from at least eighteen minority groups are known to have been held there, working — often to their death — the barren land. With the abolishment of the Gulag system, the last remaining prisoners of Karlag were freed in 1959 and left to fend for their own in the remote region.


These deported survivors put down roots and built the town Karaganda.


In 2019, I travelled to Karangada with Viktoria Morasch, a journalist and writer whose grandparents had been prisoners in Karlag.


Together, we documented the lives of the Gulag’s survivors, and descendants of survivors, to unearth the unspoken history of the place.


For this project, funded by the German Gabriel Grüner Stipendium photojournalism grant, we delved into the secrets of the landscape — beautiful parks grown over mass graves — and the contradictions of a people who managed to foster a spirit of integration from a past of ethnic persecutions.




An abandoned building with a tree.
Three photos of an old man with glasses.
A window with a curtain.
A dining room with a table and chairs.
Two women sitting at a table.
A medallion hanging on a wall.
A group of people sitting at a table.
An older woman looking at her phone.
A brown couch with a lamp on it.
A couple sitting at a table.
A plate of food on a table with spoons and utensils.
A man with a shovel.
A black and white photo of a woman in a black shirt.
A black rock with yellow leaves on it.
A grassy field with a lot of tall grasses.
A woman sitting on a bench with a child and a dog.
A bed with a teddy bear next to a window.
A woman in a kitchen with a child standing on a chair.
A room with a wall covered in wallpaper.
An elderly man sitting on a couch.
A wooden shelf with a lot of mugs on it.
A woman wearing a scarf sitting on a chair.
A bunch of paintings on a wall.
A woman sitting in a kitchen with a hat on her head.
Negative Lab Pro v2.2.0 | Color Model: Frontier | Pre-Sat: 2 | Tone Profile: Linear | WB: Standard | LUT: Frontier
A playground with swings and trees in the background.
A man in a suit standing in a kitchen with a cat.
A document on a table next to a cup of coffee.
A black and white photo of a man holding a photo.
An older man sitting at a table in front of a window.
An old man standing in front of a demolished building.
A building that has been demolished with a sign on it.
A man sitting at a desk.
A wooden wall with a clock on it.
Two women sitting at a table talking to each other.
A woman holding up a framed picture.
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